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Way up there in Portland, Maine, a DII club playoff game will be played as Union visits Portland Saturday.
It’s a big improvement for Portland, 6-0-1 this season after a 3-3-1 record in 2010. The reason for the improvement may lay at the feet of another team, from even further north.
“We hosted a touring side from Scotland last spring,” said club president James Canon. “We matched up well against them as athletes and in physicality. But they played like a team. As our coach [Tom Lovering] said, we played like 15 guys who showed up at the field at the same time. We really learned a lot from that.”
From then on, the club all bought into playing as a team first. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to before, it was just they hadn’t quite seen how far they had to go.
The result was not losing a match this fall – their only blemish a tie with Albany.
“The strange thing is all our games have been struggles,” said Canon. “Not just the tie. Every game has been tough. I think that’s going to help us in the playoffs. We know how to keep going even when things aren’t going good. We don’t underestimate anybody.”
Center and captain Mike Milliken has been a tremendous leader for Portland, while scrumhalf Colin Talbot has also been key in bringing the team approach together.
They will need that leadership this weekend against a Union team they don’t know at all.
“The only thing we know about them is the color of their jerseys,” said Canon. “So we’re just going to play our game, and play as a team.”